Monday, July 11, 2011

Infatuation and Perfume

“Olfactarama” is three years old this week. Writing it has taught me a lot about infatuation.
I know that infatuation is, essentially, huge amounts of neurotransmitters being released in the brain in response to, well, something, another person usually. It’s one of the most powerful forces that exists. Millions of songs and poems, books and essays, have been written because of it and millions more will be. It’s that strange combo of joy, longing, lightheadedness and giddiness, those qualities often called “love.” But if the object of one’s infatuation withdraws, then it’s misery. The mind struggles to regain that high. Sometimes the result is obsession, with all its humiliation and destructiveness; sometimes merely a roller-coaster ride through Hell. 
(Ok, so maybe I’m not exactly what you’d call a romantic.)
I get infatuated with subjects. I get this extreme need to learn everything about whatever the subject is. It’s actually my best quality -- my favorite one anyway; I’ve learned lots of stuff this way. It’s a little sad when it leaves me, but I’ll retain what I learned (I hope). With the big subjects -- like perfume -- there is always more to know.
At the moment, I’m turning more towards the essences and molecules that build fragrances. (I know, I know, the pros use patented bases I couldn’t get if I tried, etc.) I want to understand perfumery in depth, how certain essences form accords while others duke it out in the bottle forever, why some things are fleeting and so on. I’m making things in the process, but I doubt they’ll see much light of day, except, perhaps, on my own skin and that of my more tolerant friends. It is the process that is fascinates me now.
Initially, I thought that if I could get familiar with the essences enough to nail the damned “notes” that it would help me become a better evaluator, a better critic, better blogger. This fascination with process has really come out of left field, as that say, and I’m truly surprised. But I guess the ability to surprise one’s self is one of the things that keeps us vital and alive.
Infatuations tend to last two or so years at the most, and that’s true, for this one, too. I’m no longer swapping madly and waiting impatiently for the mailman and the UPS truck or spending too much on Our Favorite Online Auction Site or ripping packages open when I’m barely through the door. I kind of miss that high. But my thoughts and explorations of fragrance now are more relaxed, and I don’t mind taking my time.  
I guess my infatuation has deepened into true love.
So I’m thinking about a different kind of delving, of elements, experiments, associations; a calmer, more stretched-out way of thinking about fragrance and smell, this perfect springboard into the exploration of the senses, of memory; sense memory, too. It makes sense now.
I know that many of you are writers and forum participants too. Where are you in your own trajectory?
(The photo is taken from an old Bal a Versailles ad, the classic perfume that was the subject of my first post. Because Bal is one of those that seems to be an olfactory chameleon -- some say leather, some amber, some Oriental, some floral -- I think the multiple mirrors are perfect.)


Carrie Meredith said...

Congratulations on 3 years of blogging! I very much enjoy your posts.

I suppose I'm still in the madly swapping/bidding/buying phase. I've got a wonderful circle of friends that I swap and gift with- other bloggers that I've grown to care about very much. My writing is becoming more focused the more I learn, and I'm getting to that point where I need to know more. I want to know how fragrances work,I want to know the history, but I don't want to be a perfumer. I suppose I'm right on your heels, huh? I hadn't thought of trying to mix essences and create scents, but I have seriously considered buying small vials of individual essences to help tune my nose.

Diana said...

Three and a half years here and I'm somewhere between infatuation and love. I think I'm brave now, more willing to buy more or buy unsniffed because I like so many things I feel less likely to hate whatever I end up with and be able to swap it away if I didn't like it.

I've always liked Angela's
"Stages of a perfumista" piece ( and I have to say I'm in stage 3 now, probably, but moving toward stage 4.

Good luck with your growth. I've found giving myself my five samples a week challenge this year has forced me to be more ruthless with myself about whether I like things, and that's been good because my purgatory pile was huge like woah! when I started. Now it's smaller and I've forced myself to finally put things in a "like enough to buy or at least keep" pile which is considerably smaller than the "nice but not earth-shattering" pile I now make myself part with so they can find people who love them better than I do.

Darryl said...

I do the exact same: become interested in a subject to the point of obsession, obtain and absorb all available information on said subject, Google and Wiki and YouTube and library and forum-browse till my eyes are sore and typing fingers numb, hit a plateau, and then settle into a more sane, relaxed passion for the subject, at the relief of my sleep schedule, budget, or both. I'm there now with my fragrance obsession, and frankly I'm thrilled.

Rappleyea said...

Two books that I'd recommend:

Advanced Aromatherapy-Science of Essential Oil Therapy by Schnaubelt
Aromatherapy Workbook by Lavabre

Both are excellent books detailing the molecular structure and composition of essential oils - the building blocks of perfume (although most are comprised now of synthetic versions).

Olfacta said...

Hi Carrie -- Thanks! Get in touch with me at the email address if you like, and I'l let you know where I've gotten things from. A very succinct analysis!

Olfacta said...

Hi Diana -- I have labeled piles too, like the "reference" pile, which is at least seperated by family and the "undecided" pile which grows & grows, and cigar boxes full of "I forgot I had this!" At least the vials are small.

Olfacta said...

Hi Darryl -- Yes, the wallet is happier, that's for sure. On the same page, definitely.

Olfacta said...

Hi Donna -- I'll check these books out (since our libraries here no longer have much money to buy books I guess it'll be on A-libris). I'd love to read about the molecular structure of essential oils -- yes, I'm that geeky. Thanks!

Vanessa said...

Congrats on your anniversary! I enjoy your thoughtful posts and the relaxed pace of your blog.

I have definitely peaked, plateaued, whatever, buying just a few FBs a year and swapping on a purely reactive basis, and only then when I really care for something. I opened the door of my perfume fridge yesterday and the beatific gaze with which I viewed its serried ranks of bottles and decants could be likened to a proud mother looking at her brood of children round the dining table and thinking that ten are probably enough now (more or less).

Lucy said...

Congratulations. Keep writing on perfume, please, whatever you do. I always get so much from your thoughts on perfumes.
I am also still in a phase that combines infatuation and true love, and I see it deepening over time.

I know exactly what you mean by the dangers of infatuation, but at least this time we've found an object that can indeed develop into true love...